Tackling Air Pollution and Promoting Public Health: EMISSIONS & AIR QUALITY Smart Class 2024 Retrospective


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Dr Christina Mitsakou is Principal Environmental Public Health Scientist in the Air Quality and Public Health Team (AQPH) at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Christina and AQPH work closely with government departments, such as Defra and Department for Transport, providing scientific evidence input that informs policy development.

In her opening keynote at EMISSIONS & AIR QUALITY Smart Class 2024, Christina highlighted the health impacts of air pollution across the UK and explained how UKHSA is tackling air pollution through a Cleaner Air Programme organised around increasing the evidence base, influencing and supporting stakeholders, and improving awareness and understanding.

The scope of Christina’s presentation encompassed: interventions for (the much underestimated) indoor as well as outdoor air quality; multi-agency partnerships such as the London Air Quality and Health Programme Office; key roles of innovation, data driven insights, collaboration, inclusiveness and behaviour change; and recent initiatives such as the UK’s first targeted air quality alert for healthcare professionals.

Summary of presentation highlights:

  • UKHSA’s Cleaner Air Programme;
  • Sources of air pollution – Energy, Manufacturing industries and construction, Industrial processes, Residential and small-scale commercial combustion, Fugitive emissions, Agriculture, Road transport and Non-road transport;
  • Pollution substances – Sulphur dioxide, Nitrogen oxides, Ammonia, Primary particulate matter, Non-methane volatile organic compounds;
  • Health effects of air pollution – Short-term effects; Long-term effects; Impacts detailed in Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2022 – Air pollution;
  • Mortality Burden – Every year, around 7 million deaths globally are due to exposure from both outdoor and household air pollution (WHO); In the UK, long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution estimated to have effect equivalent to 29,000 to 43,000 deaths; UK HSA Chemical Hazards and Poisons Report – Reducing health harms associated with air pollution;
  • Impact of air pollution episodes: 12-14 March and 28 March-3 April 2014 episode examples (Daily Air Quality Index) – 600 deaths due to short-term PM2.5 exposure, two-fold increase in mortality;

  • Inequalities in air quality – Air pollution affects everyone but there are inequalities in exposure and the greatest impact is on the most vulnerable, including older people (65 and older), pregnant women, children, communities with poorer air quality (e.g. those situated closer to main roads) and those with cardiovascular disease and/or respiratory disease; Certain vulnerabilities increase the risk of health effects (e.g. those admitted to hospital with pre-existing conditions, lower socioeconomic and ethnic minority communities disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards); Housing conditions can impact on air pollution risk (e.g. poor urban planning to put people at increased risk of exposure to indoor air pollution); There are also geographical inequalities in air pollution (England Emissions Map of PM2.5);
  • Air quality at schools and deprivation – Children on free school meals, and from a minority ethnic background, are more likely to attend a school co-located with hih indoor PM2.5;
  • Air quality alerts to London healthcare professionals – The London Air Quality and Health Programme Office (NHSE London, UKHSA, OHID and Mayor of London); Commitment at the London Clean Air and Health Summit for alerts to be sent to London health professionals when air pollution forecast to be high; Evidence-based & iterative co-design approach + Use of qualitative methods + Extensive engagement with wide range of stakeholders and experts = Cohesive alert messaging directly to GPs and EDs (24 hours prior), with guidance on physical activity and managing asthma/COPD during High/very High air pollution episodes; Forecasts from Imperial College London;

  • Indoor air – Sources and types of air pollution e.g. In bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, attic, living areas and garage/dust and dust mites, bacteria and viruses, VOCs (from personal care products, household cleaning products, carpets, paints etc), mould and mildew, man-made mineral fibres, asbestos, formaldehyde, radon, CO from car exhaust, CO and NO2 from fires and wood burning stoves, gas cookers etc;
  • Factors affecting indoor air quality – Occupant activities; Ambient air; Design and maintenance of buildings; Urban planning; Ventilation; Building and construction materials, furnishing and consumer products;
  • Indoor air – Burden of respiratory disease from damp and mould in English housing e.g. in 2019, estimated 5,000 cases of asthma, 8,500 cases of lower respiratory infections among children and adults, 1-2% of new cases of allergic rhinitis etc; Burden of respiratory disease from formaldehyde in English housing e.g. in 2019, 800 DALYs from childhood asthma;
  • Damp and mould in the house – Guidance: Government commitment following Prevention Future deaths report following death of Awaab Ishak; Collaboration – OHID, UKHSA, DLUHC; Understanding and addressing the health risks for rented housing providers; Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home – Risks, regulation, taking a proactive approach to reducing the risk of damp and mould, responding to reports of damp and mould;

  • Supporting stakeholders – Indicators:
  • Fraction of mortality attributable to particulate air pollution and Public Health Outcomes Framework – Example of North East region mortality attributable to PAP; Background annual average PM2.5 concentrations are modelled on a 1km x 1km grid using air dispersion model, and calibrated using measured concentrations taken from background sites in Defra’s Automatic Urban and Rural Network; Interactive maps;
  • Air pollution vulnerability – Population data; Vulnerability data, Air Pollution data; Pilot indicator – SHAPE (shapeatlas.net);
  • Pilot Air Quality Health Indicator Tool (England) – Available health indicators associated with air quality, Microsoft Power BI software, 5 topics/development scope for more, Interactive data for local use etc;
  • Other resources – Health Effects of Climate Change (HECC), State of the evidence 2023 – Change in Climate, Impacts on air pollution;
  • Key references

If you meet our regular delegate qualification criteria but were unable to join us at Greencoat Place Conference Centre, London, for the live in-person event on May 1st, CLICK HERE and complete the short “Download form” (located at the bottom of the post) to receive a unique link enabling free access to the presentation video recordings and slides (including the film footage and slides from Christina’s keynote).

Those qualifying to receive the rich presentation content from this event include commissioning, procurement, trialling, partnering and policy leads, senior influencers, strategic decision makers, environmental managers and planners from local authorities (e.g. city, borough, metropolitan, district and county councils); public and private transport operators/service providers; sub-regional transport bodies, combined authorities, integrated transport authorities and passenger transport executives; freight and logistics operators; airports and port operators; vehicle manufacturers; energy providers; potential partners from industry (e.g. retail, construction, manufacturing and waste management sectors) and healthcare; DfT, Defra, EA, BEIS, DHSC, UKHSA and other supporting national agencies; prime contractors; academia etc.

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EMISSIONS & AIR QUALITY Smart Classes show key buyer side stakeholders how they can deploy the latest digital technology-enabled solutions, data-driven strategies, policies and best practices to improve urban air quality and drive down emissions and air pollution in our cities and regions. EMISSIONS & AIR QUALITY Smart Class 2024 will be hosted in London on May 1st.


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